NFC West: Kelly Jennings

Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson and Roy Lewis were the Seattle Seahawks' cornerbacks when Pete Carroll arrived as head coach for the 2010 season.

That group consisted of two first-round picks, two second-rounders and an undrafted free agent. It should have been stellar, but it was not.

The team has become exponentially better at the position without investing much in its personnel. Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick. Brandon Browner was playing in the CFL. The new slot corner, Antoine Winfield, signed for one year and $2 million.

Consider Matt Williamson impressed. Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, listed Seattle's corners No. 1 in the NFC West -- and beyond -- as part of his ongoing pre-draft positional rankings for division teams.

Williamson: Seattle to me has the best set of corners in the league, clearly. And then Winfield might be the best slot corner in the league. It's almost unfair.

Sando: Carroll coached the secondary in his early NFL days. He and general manager John Schneider have put together the best one in the NFL, stacked at safety and corner alike. I think the entire division is pretty strong at corner overall.

Williamson: These next three teams are close. St. Louis has the best starters of the remaining three teams. Arizona clearly has the best single starter of the remaining three in Patrick Peterson. The Niners have a lot of guys and who knows what they get out of Nnamdi Asomugha.

Sando: I don't think the 49ers are all that worried about their corner situation even though the pass defense faltered late last season.

Williamson: Nobody complalins about their corners when Justin Smith is healthy. We like to nitpick this San Francisco defense when there is nothing wrong with it. The corners are still in the top 15 position groups in the league.

Sando: I'd think every team in the NFC West could say that.

Williamson: Agreed. Being fourth in this division isn’t something to hang your head about. I could make a strong argument for San Francisco as second to Seattle. I like the Rams' starters, but Janoris Jenkins could be overrated at this point based on some of the big plays he has made. People are picking on him.

Sando: Trumaine Johnson was a nice addition in St. Louis as well, if he can stay out of trouble. And we haven't even mentioned Cortland Finnegan. I'm curious, what did you think of the Antoine Cason addition in Arizona?

Williamson: He struggled in San Diego last season. The Chargers were so dysfuntional. I think Cason has first-round skills. He is a quality player who is never going to be a Pro Bowler. He is above average. He is a middle-of-the-road to an above-average starter.

Sando: The Cardinals shuffled most of their secondary. That group will be interesting to watch. I still think Peterson is just getting started and can become the best corner in the league. For now, though, Sherman might legitimately claim that title.

Camp Confidential: Seahawks

August, 13, 2012
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RENTON, Wash. -- Terrell Owens' arrival at Seattle Seahawks training camp commanded national headlines.

It commanded the Seahawks' attention, as well, not just on the field but also in the meeting room, where coach Pete Carroll made Owens the leading man in an entertaining prank.

When the Seahawks' first exhibition game kicked off Saturday night against Tennessee, the focus returned to where it needed to be: quarterback. Although Owens might not even earn a roster spot, let alone an important role on the team, the situation behind center will determine whether Seattle breaks from its recent 7-9 form.

The way Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson played against the Titans showed that Seattle has a chance to do just that. It was only one game, with a meaningless outcome, but it affirmed some of the evidence collected to this point.

Flynn, nondescript through organized team activities and minicamps, had responded favorably when Carroll gave him the first-team practice reps last week. He was sharp in practice and efficient while completing his first eight passes against the Titans. Flynn's lone interception resulted from a rookie running back failing to sell the play fake, allowing linebacker Colin McCarthy to drop into coverage without concern for the run.

Wilson, sensational for a rookie in the offseason program, hadn't stood out as much in camp, but when the lights went on Saturday night, he looked like the best player on the field. He showed the pocket presence needed to move just the right distance at just the right times and extending plays. He scored on a 32-yard bootleg and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass from the pocket. Only an ill-advised interception over the middle prevented a full Wilson lovefest from breaking out. But it's early, and Wilson is just getting started.

Seattle has seen enough to think one of its new quarterbacks can provide an upgrade from Tarvaris Jackson, who remains on the roster as insurance.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Owens or Edwards? The Seahawks want a receiver with dominant size to fill the role Mike Williams played in the 2010 season. Owens is one candidate. Braylon Edwards is another. Second-year pro Kris Durham might still emerge as a third contender, but he has struggled to gain traction in camp.

Braylon Edwards
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireBraylon Edwards, on his fourth team in the past four seasons, has been impressive in camp.
Edwards has stepped up his game markedly after Owens' arrival, no coincidence. Edwards has to realize the Seahawks aren't going to keep two veteran receivers with no value on special teams. Owens has the bigger name and better credentials, but Edwards has the inside track for a roster spot. That is because Edwards is nine years younger and could project as a factor beyond this season. It's also because Owens has been a higher-maintenance player.

Edwards was scrapping like an undrafted free agent against Tennessee. He was a willing blocker -- too willing at one point, drawing a penalty. He rewarded Wilson's trust by making a strong play for that 39-yard touchdown reception. Owens will get his chance in the coming weeks. This competition is only beginning.

2. What to do with Jackson. Carroll has shown sensitivity for Jackson after the veteran quarterback played through a torn pectoral muscle last season. The grit Jackson showed won respect in the locker room. As much as the team wanted to look at Flynn and Wilson this summer, Carroll gave Jackson an equal portion of the reps through the first week of training camp.

Carrying a three-man race through the exhibition schedule would have been impractical, which is why Flynn and Wilson took the meaningful reps in practice last week. It's also why Flynn and Wilson took all the snaps in the exhibition opener.

Jackson represents the known. He is the baseline for a team seeking improvement at the position. Jackson, for all his toughness, wasn't effective when it counted last season (zero touchdowns, six interceptions and nine sacks in the final two minutes of halves).

He is scheduled to earn $4 million for the 2012 season. Flynn and Wilson are going to be on the roster, most likely filling the top two spots. The team also likes developmental quarterback Josh Portis.

Something has to give, and logic says it'll be Jackson.

3. Health concerns at tight end. The Seahawks envision running quite a few personnel groupings with two tight ends. Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable values H-backs. The expectation this season was for Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow to provide Seattle with a diverse duo at the position. That still might happen, but, with Miller suffering from his fourth concussion in less than three years, there are suddenly renewed health questions at tight end.

Winslow's chronic knee problems limit how frequently he can practice. Although he hasn't missed a game to injury in the past three seasons, Winslow is 29 years old and doesn't figure to gain durability.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Seahawks have upgraded at quarterback and in their ability to rush the passer. Those were the two areas most responsible for holding them back in the recent past. They're also more settled on the offensive line.

How much Seattle has upgraded at quarterback remains unknown, but even if Jackson were to somehow emerge as the starter in a sort of worst-case scenario, at least he would be healthy. The Seahawks aren't asking their quarterbacks to carry the team. They just want efficient play from the position. The early returns suggest that Flynn can provide that, and that Wilson might be able to provide more.

Newly acquired defensive tackle Jason Jones has already improved the pass rush. Rookie first-round choice Bruce Irvin has been the most difficult player to block in one-on-one pass-rush drills. He has the speed to beat tackles to the outside and better power than anticipated for a player weighing less than 250 pounds. The combination of Jones, Irvin and leading sacker Chris Clemons will be tough at home, in particular.

Seattle's defense already ranked among the NFL's top 10 in fewest points allowed, yards allowed and yards allowed per play. This was a mostly young defense on the rise even before Jones and Irvin arrived to address the pass rush.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Matt Flynn
Steven Bisig/US PresswireMatt Flynn was 11-for-13 against the Titans on Saturday night, but he is still largely untested in the regular season.
Faith is involved in projecting how well unproven quarterbacks will perform.

A year ago, division-rival Arizona was convinced that Kevin Kolb would fix its problems. At the very least, the Cardinals would become average at quarterback, it seemed, which surely would be enough to make them a playoff contender.

Flynn might be better than Kolb, but what if he's not? What if it becomes clear a month or two into the season that Flynn, with only two career regular-season starts, isn't ready to manage an NFL offense from week to week?

Wilson has appeal as an alternative, but how far can a team with a 5-foot-10 rookie quarterback go in an NFC featuring Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler and Cam Newton?

The Seahawks have a powerful ground game and a potentially dominant defense, but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, right? The five most recent Super Bowls featured Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Brees, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner as the starting quarterbacks. No Super Bowl team was trying to decide between a player with two starts and a rookie third-round choice.

Even if Flynn or Wilson emerges as viable this season, Seattle could have the third-best quarterback in the division.

OBSERVATION DECK
  • The red noncontact jersey Sidney Rice wears in practice invites questions about his availability coming off two offseason shoulder surgeries. Rice seems to be moving and catching well. My read is that the team is being cautious and there are no pressing concerns.
  • Rice needs to do a better job of protecting himself. He tends to land awkwardly, exposing himself to unnecessary contact. The plan was for the shoulder surgeries to enable more aggressive weightlifting, allowing Rice to strengthen his lithe frame. Although the shoulders are a concern, Rice also suffered two concussions last season.
  • Seattle continues to show an uncanny ability to find important roles for obscure defensive players. Defensive end Red Bryant became a success story after converting from defensive tackle over the past couple of seasons. Clinton McDonald, a former college linebacker acquired from Cincinnati in the Kelly Jennings trade, is now a factor. McDonald stands ahead of Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch as the fourth defensive lineman in the nickel package. McDonald is backing up Mebane in the base defense.
  • Bryant's outgoing personality makes him a natural leader on defense. Mebane, his quieter teammate on the line, emerged in that area last season after the team released veteran linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Said Leroy Hill: "A lot of times in the huddle, Mebane is the one talking. It's odd because he never did that role, but last year he stepped up and people fell in behind him. ... People listen to what he's got to say."
  • Left guard John Moffitt could miss the next few weeks after requiring elbow surgery. My initial take was that his replacement, Deuce Lutui, would provide an upgrade, in pass protection especially. One question is whether Lutui fits the profile for Cable's zone-blocking scheme. Moffitt appears to be a better fit that way. Lutui might be best suited for center, but the team is set there with Max Unger, who signed a long-term extension.
  • Seattle has apparently hit on two seventh-round choices this year. Greg Scruggs has a chance to stick on the defensive line, and J.R. Sweezy has improbably made a quick conversion from college defensive lineman to NFL guard. Seattle gave Sweezy time with its starting line against Tennessee, and he played surprisingly well. Sweezy projects as a good run-blocker for Cable's scheme. Rishaw Johnson is another obscure offensive lineman to watch.
  • We've made it this far without mentioning Marshawn Lynch, the offensive player Seattle relied on most heavily last season. Rookie Robert Turbin has gotten more attention as the projected backup. The Seahawks haven't heard whether Lynch will face a suspension in relation to his pending DUI case. Teams wouldn't have to fear the ground game nearly as much if Lynch missed time.
  • At middle linebacker, rookie Bobby Wagner remains the favorite to start in my view. He has outstanding speed and strong hands for taking on blocks when necessary. Veteran fullback Michael Robinson compared Wagner to a young Patrick Willis. Wagner's preseason debut was a bit of an adventure, however. He overran a few plays and didn't stand out.
  • The offensive line should be fine as long as left tackle Russell Okung remains healthy. Okung was looking good early in camp one year ago, only to suffer an ankle injury in an Aug. 11 preseason game against San Diego. The torn pectoral he suffered late last season counts as a fluke. Philadelphia's Trent Cole, frustrated by Okung's edgy style, unleashed a judo move on him. The longer Okung can go without landing on the injury report, the better Seattle can feel about his long-term prospects.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond and offensive lineman James Carpenter could make an impact later in the season. Both are coming off serious injuries, and neither will be a factor early in the season. Playing Carpenter at left guard has long-term appeal. He and Okung would form a massive combination on the left side. Carpenter is still limping around with a heavy brace on his surgically repaired knee, however.
  • Carroll's commitment to competition shows up in his willingness to play young players at key positions, including middle linebacker and quarterback. The effect is felt throughout the roster. Lutui: "Rookies, first-year guys, he puts them in. I've never seen that on any level. That pushes the older guys. Everybody is not comfortable. Everybody is not complacent. It doesn't matter if you have a new contract. Everybody is on an edge. You know you have to better yourself, and that is good to see."

Counting the ways to build Super team

January, 30, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Super Bowls provide validation for players, coaches and organizations.

There are more ways than one to get there, however.


Top-notch quarterback play can cover lots of blemishes, as the AFC champion New England Patriots proved. They went 13-3 with a defense that ranked 31st in yards allowed and 26th in Total QBR allowed.

General patterns trump black-and-white rules when it comes to building a championship team.

Recent work from draftmetrics.com shows how team composition correlated with 2011 success. I've broken out charts showing where NFC West teams ranked in games started by homegrown draft choices (first chart) and veterans acquired through free agency (second one).

The draftmetrics.com research shows teams succeeding, in general, when their own draft choices started more games. Teams ranking closer to the middle of the pack in starts by veteran free agents also fared better than those on the margins.


The St. Louis Rams jump out right away. They led the NFL in most starts by veterans signed from other teams. They ranked last in starts by their own draft choices. That combination, exaggerated by an unusual number of injuries, helped explain why the Rams finished with a 2-14 record.

The top 10 teams in starts by homegrown draft choices went 89-71 last season, including 13-3 by the San Francisco 49ers. The middle 12 teams went 95-97. The bottom 10 teams went 72-88. Seattle ranked fifth from the bottom, in part because the Seahawks have cut ties with so many draft choices from previous regimes (think Aaron Curry, Kelly Jennings, etc.).

The top 10 teams in starts by veteran free agents went 67-93. Teams in the bottom 10 went 80-80. The middle 12 teams were most successful on the whole, going 109-83. But two teams barely falling into that middle group, New England and San Francisco, pumped up the overall record.

Note: I'm heading over to Radio Row here shortly and hope to run across some NFC West types.
Drafting a tight end sixth overall bucked convention when the San Francisco 49ers tried it with Vernon Davis in 2006.

Davis
The move worked out. Davis' four scoring receptions in two recent playoff games matched the combined regular-season scoring production for tight ends in Arizona (four), Seattle (zero) and St. Louis (zero).

With 26 touchdown receptions over the last three regular seasons, Davis has fared well enough to remain a top-10 pick in the 2006 re-draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. put together for Insider subscribers. The other NFC West first-rounders that year -- Matt Leinart, Tye Hill, Manny Lawson and Kelly Jennings -- did not project among the top 32 choices in the do-over version.

Lawson did become a starter, giving the 49ers easily the best first-round haul among division teams that year. Kiper wound up giving the 49ers guard Jahri Evans at No. 6, two spots before he sent Davis to Buffalo, where the Bills actually took current 49ers safety Donte Whitner.

A look back at what Scouts Inc. said Insider about the NFC West teams' choices on draft day in 2006, edited down to a couple snippets per player:
  • On Davis at No. 6: "Davis is a rare specimen. He has the speed to stretch the field, the burst to consistently separate from man coverage and the athletic ability to produce after the catch. His big-play ability will make teams think twice about stacking the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow down the 49ers' running game, and he should develop into QB Alex Smith's go-to-guy. That's important, because there isn't great depth or talent at receiver."
  • On Leinart at No. 10: "Few experts thought Leinart would slip this far, and although Arizona has more urgent needs, incumbent QB Kurt Warner has had problems staying healthy and isn't getting any younger. Improving the depth behind Warner and drafting an heir apparent makes sense. Leinart doesn't have elite arm strength or mobility, but he has the poise, smarts and accuracy to develop into an excellent starter."
  • On Hill at No. 15: "Jerametrius Butler missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury, 2005 second-round pick Ronald Bartell hasn't developed as quickly as hoped, and Travis Fisher can't stay healthy, so it comes as no surprise the Rams took a cornerback with their first pick."
  • On Lawson at No. 22: "San Francisco needed to have a strong draft, and with a second excellent first-round choice is off to an incredible start. Lawson will move to outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme and should be an excellent fit."
  • On Jennings at No. 31: "Once the Seahawks made Andre Dyson a salary cap casualty, they knew they needed a corner who can start opposite Marcus Trufant. With that in mind, this is a great pick for the Seahawks."

Davis did become Smith's go-to target. The 49ers still have depth issues a wide receiver, then as now. The Cardinals still are not sure whether they've found Warner's replacement. The Rams still have major injury concerns at corner. And the 49ers have finally found the first-round outside linebacker they wanted -- 2011 pick Aldon Smith, not Lawson. The Seahawks did fix their cornerback issues, but only this season.

Final Word: NFC West

November, 18, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

Skelton's opportunity: Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton steps up in class when he faces the San Francisco 49ers' defense. The matchup figures to be a tough one from a protection standpoint, but the Cardinals have found ways to strike for big plays this season. They have seven pass plays of at least 40 yards this season, fourth-most in the league behind Detroit, Green Bay and Houston. The 49ers have given up seven such plays, tied for fourth-most in the league. That gives Arizona a puncher's chance against the 49ers. And if Skelton can somehow pull out a victory, his stock will rise considerably.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
David Richard/US PresswireThe Rams' Steven Jackson has 30 career games with at least 100 rushing yards.
Ganging up on power backs: Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells and Frank Gore give the NFC West four running backs able to dish out punishment. All are physical runners. I'm most interested in seeing whether Jackson can top 100 yards rushing for the fourth game in a row. He has 30 career games with at least 100 yards, but none against Seattle. That's surprising given that Jackson has faced the Seahawks more times than he has faced any other team -- 14, counting playoffs.

49ers hold their ground: Every NFL team but the 49ers has allowed at least three rushing touchdowns this season. San Francisco has allowed zero. The 49ers are the first team since the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars to go nine games into a season without allowing one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals rank tied for 11th in the league with eight rushing scores, but they have zero in their past two games. Wells' injured knee has robbed power from him. Wells had only 10 carries for 29 yards against the 49ers last season. He did carry 15 times for 79 yards against them as a rookie in 2009.

Cornerbacks in focus: The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks will play without cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Al Harris, Walter Thurmond or Marcus Trufant, among others. The team best able to exploit issues in the secondary could prevail. Seattle feels better about its cornerback situation, but the raw talent is questionable. Two of the Seahawks' five players at the position were undrafted. Two others are rookies. None of the five was drafted earlier than the fifth round. That was partly by design, however. The team traded 2006 first-rounder Kelly Jennings and 2007 second-rounder Josh Wilson.

Explosive potential in return game: Patrick Peterson and Ted Ginn Jr. give the Cardinals-49ers game big-play potential on returns. Peterson has helped Arizona go from 27th last season to second this season in punt-return average. He leads the NFL in that category with a 17.6-yard average among players with more than 15 punt returns. His three touchdowns on punt returns also lead the NFL. The 49ers' Ginn ranks third in punt-return average and third in kick-return average among players with more than 15 returns in each category. He also has two touchdowns. The Cardinals' kick returner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, has been quiet this season. He scored three times on returns over the previous two seasons.

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 34, Seahawks 12

October, 30, 2011
10/30/11
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SEATTLE -- Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 34-12 home defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8:

What it means: The Seahawks are going to have a very hard time challenging within the division after losing back-to-back games against Cleveland and Cincinnati. They trail the San Francisco 49ers by four games in the standings with nine games remaining. No team since realignment in 2002 has overcome greater than a 3.5-game deficit this late in a season.

What I liked: Rookie cornerback Richard Sherman tracked the ball nicely and picked off Andy Dalton's deep pass down the right sideline when the Bengals were threatening to build on a 17-3 lead. Sherman was starting after the team lost Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond to season-ending injuries. He broke up another pass, enabling teammate Kam Chancellor to collect an interception. Punter Jon Ryan tracked down Bengals return specialist Pacman Jones to prevent a touchdown. Tarvaris Jackson's deep pass to Ben Obomanu against cornerback Leon Hall covered 55 yards and gave the Seahawks a needed jolt late in the third quarter. Jackson topped 300 yards passing, making it clear he needs to remain the starter moving forward.

What I didn't like: Seattle's offensive line, playing with its projected starters for the first time since Week 1, struggled in all phases. Tight end Anthony McCoy had another drop. Even Sidney Rice had some issues. On defense, Seattle gave up the big play to A.J. Green. Linebacker David Hawthorne, who picked off a pass against Cleveland last week, appeared to have the coverage when the Bengals, playing without starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, found Donald Lee for a big gain over the middle. The Bengals fared better than expected on the ground even though they were without Gresham and suspended running back Cedric Benson.

Poor game management: The first-half clock ran out on Seattle after the team went for it on fourth down deep in Bengals territory with no timeouts remaining. The sequence resembled what happened to the team against San Diego last season. Yes, officials arguably should have stopped the clock when Bengals players lingered on the pile, preventing Seattle from attempting another play. But every coach must factor for such risks. Seattle went into halftime trailing 17-3 when the score should have been 17-6, at worst. Down 17-12 with 8:55 to play in the game, Carroll opted for a two-point conversion, which failed.

Questionable QB juggling: Carroll left himself open to further criticism with his handling of the quarterback situation. Charlie Whitehurst started even though Jackson was available. Whitehurst struggled. Carroll switched to Jackson. If Jackson were healthy enough to play, why not start him? It was defensible for Carroll to see how things went with Whitehurst, possibly buying additional time for Jackson to make a fuller recovery. The team listed Jackson as its starter before the game, only to send Whitehurst onto the field for the first series. Jackson took a hit late in the game, after the outcome was decided, and doctors checked out his knee on the sideline. He went back into the game and tossed an interception for a touchdown, turning a sound defeat into an embarrassing one.

CB thinking rewarded: The Seahawks traded Kelly Jennings to the Bengals before the season as part of an overall effort to get bigger at cornerback. That thinking appeared sound when Sherman used his size to make that leaping interception along the sideline. Sherman also contributed on the interception from Chancellor. Meanwhile, Seahawks undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin beat Jennings for a 31-yard gain up the right sideline.

Special-teams implosion: The Seahawks' special teams have dropped off this season through a combination of injuries and poor play. Brandon Tate's 56-yard punt return for a touchdown put away the game for the Bengals. Jones probably should have scored on an earlier return, but Ryan caught him. Jones apparently injured his hamstring injury on the play.

Injuries of note: Defensive end Chris Clemons left the game with a knee injury, then returned.

What's next: The Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9.

NFC West corner landscape minus Trufant

October, 17, 2011
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The NFC West cornerback landscape was already barely recognizable from last season.

Marcus Trufant's placement on the Seattle Seahawks injured-reserve list, announced by the team Monday, signals another big change.

The Seahawks will have gone from Trufant and Kelly Jennings as their starters last season to Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner for the remaining 11 games.

The Arizona Cardinals have gone from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (traded) and Greg Toler (injured reserve) to Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson. The St. Louis Rams have changed from Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher (both on IR) to Justin King and Al Harris. The San Francisco 49ers have gone from Nate Clements (released) and Shawntae Spencer (backup) to Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, with rookie Chris Culliver surpassing Spencer in the nickel defense.

Trufant, 30, has started at least 15 games in seven of his nine seasons, all with Seattle. He was generally playing well this season before back trouble sidelined him for the team's 36-25 victory against the New York Giants. The team was developing second-year corner Thurmond as a future starter. Thurmond was gaining ground in that pursuit already. Trufant's injury accelerates the process and draws attention to the fact that Trufant's time with the Seahawks could be waning.

Around the NFC West: Sharing secrets

October, 13, 2011
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Imagine going to work and only later realizing someone had slipped a microphone into your clothing so they could hear everything you said throughout the day.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says that's what essentially happened to Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein. Somers: "League officials issued a memo earlier this month directing teams to have their starting center or starting guards wear microphones during games. The team has the option of which players wear the microphone, and only one mike is open at a time. The league and television networks want to enhance the sound during games, giving fans a better sense of the action on the field. ... Sendlein said he wasn't aware the microphone was in his pads the first time he wore it, against the Giants on Oct. 2. His brother told him later that Sendlein could be heard. The issue was approved by the players in the collective bargaining agreement." Noted: San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh recently said he likes watching game broadcasts for the sounds that wouldn't be available watching coaches' video, which is shot from high above the field.

Also from Somers: Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb doesn't plan to get away much during the bye week. Also, the Cardinals are putting special emphasis on issues with their two-minute offense: "To correct the problem, coach Ken Whisenhunt changed the structure of practice. On Thursdays of game week, the two-minute session was usually done at less than full speed, so players could concentrate on assignments. Starting last week, that session became full speed. And it was carried out that way this week, with the first units working against each other."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times notes that Aaron Curry's departure from the Seahawks leaves the team with zero first-round draft choices from the Tim Ruskell era. O'Neil: "First, Seattle made no real effort to re-sign center Chris Spencer, who left for Chicago as a free agent. Then, the Seahawks traded cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati before the regular season began. Now, it is expected that Aaron Curry will be traded to the Oakland Raiders, a deal that hasn't quite been finalized, but is largely expected."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times marvels at Curry's demise in relation to the obvious physical talent Curry possesses.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on Curry's shortcomings: "The criticisms of Curry included his lack of instinctual play. In his first season, he was expected to be an edge pass rusher, but rarely came up with big plays. When he was asked to drop back into coverage, he appeared to lose track of receivers or drop potential interceptions. After Curry struggled in the second game this season against Pittsburgh, the staff gave Wright a chance to start in his place. Afterward, Curry said he was at peace with the demotion because of his strong faith, and that he would stay focused on improving as a player."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford returned from his bye week refreshed and with renewed confidence in the team. Bradford: "The more I thought about things the more I realized that we've got the right people here. The right players; the right coaches. We've all just got to continue to work hard no matter what happens. Buy in and we'll get this thing figured out."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, who will be returning home to Wisconsin when the team visits Lambeau Field.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says veteran Rams cornerback Rod Hood spent his bye week huddling with secondary coach Clayton Lopez in an effort to learn the team's defense in time for the Green Bay game. Hood: "It’s unfortunate what happened to Fletch but it’s time for some guys to step up. I think that’s what they brought me in for. It’s time to get in the game plan as much as I can and be ready to go on Sunday. Once I got on the team I am definitely devoted to being here. To me, I have been off for two or three weeks not playing so I am ready now to play."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is ranking the 49ers' Alex Smith among his top five at the position to this point in the season. Warner: "My big surprise: Alex Smith comes in at No. 4. A guy I probably didn't expect to make this list all year long, but he's got his team at 4-1 right now. He's playing as consistent as anybody. And what I've seen the last couple weeks is him making the big play, something that he hadn't done up to that point in the season."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers ordered and received new speakers, the better to simulate opposing teams' crowd noise. The team played songs from AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses, Ram Jam and Eminem in preparation for Ford Field in Detroit.

Also from Barrows: The team wants to re-sign receiver Josh Morgan, who recently landed on injured reserve.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News passes along Harbaugh's thoughts on linebacker Patrick Willis: "I compare it to baseball in some ways. I mean, the five facets of being a great baseball player. Hitting for power, hitting for average, catch, run, throw, being able to do those five things at an elite level. Patrick as a linebacker, play downhill as a linebacker, No. 1, to be able to drop in coverage, be active and good in coverage, be able to tackle in open space, be able to blitz, strong, with tempo and timing, and also be able to run from sideline to sideline with the agility and the speed to do that and make plays. Those five things, he’s doing it at an elite level, where some ‘backers are great downhill linebackers, but they’re not as good in coverage. Some other ‘backers are really good in coverage but not so good when it comes to downhill and playing between the tackles. I think just like Willie Mays -- to me, five facets of baseball, Willie Mays is the greatest of all-time. And Patrick Willis has a chance to be one of the all-time great linebackers, if he’s able to play at this elite level in all five facets over a long period of time."

Week 5 rematches: NFC West vengeance?

October, 5, 2011
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NFC West teams went 0-3 last season against the teams they face in Week 5.

They lost those games by a combined 99-31 score.

Much has changed since then. Let's take a look:

Cardinals at Vikings

Score last season: Vikings 27, Cardinals 24 (OT)

Key play: Brett Favre's 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the final minute of regulation tied the game, forcing overtime after the Cardinals had built a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead. Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards in the game.

Biggest change: Both teams have new quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb for Derek Anderson in Arizona, and Donovan McNabb for Favre in Minnesota. Also, the Vikings have a new head coach (Leslie Frazier) while the Cardinals have a new defensive coordinator (Ray Horton).

Storyline: McNabb keeps a home in Arizona and was available to the Cardinals when their quarterback situation was in flux, but the team showed no interest in him. He is now trying to hold off a change to rookie Christian Ponder.

Lineup changes for Arizona (12): Beanie Wells for Tim Hightower at running back, Kolb for Anderson at quarterback, Daryn Colledge for Alan Faneca at left guard, Rex Hadnot for Deuce Lutui at right guard, Todd Heap for Ben Patrick at tight end, Andre Roberts for Steve Breaston at receiver, Anthony Sherman for Reagan Maui'a at fullback (although the team opened its 2010 game at Minnesota without a fullback), Dan Williams for Bryan Robinson at nose tackle, Daryl Washington for Gerald Hayes at linebacker, Clark Haggans for Will Davis at linebacker, A.J. Jefferson for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback, Patrick Peterson for Greg Toler at cornerback.

49ers vs. Buccaneers

Score last season: Buccaneers 21, 49ers 0

Key play: Josh Freeman's 1-yard scoring pass to tackle Donald Penn midway through the fourth quarter put an exclamation point on the 49ers' first home shutout since 1977.

Biggest change: Jim Harbaugh has replaced Mike Singletary as the 49ers' head coach.

Storyline: Alex Smith gets a shot at Tampa Bay after watching Troy Smith struggle against the Bucs as the 49ers' starting quarterback last season. Troy Smith's approach centered around striking for big plays. The Bucs took away the big plays. Alex Smith gives the 49ers a chance to be more efficient.

Lineup changes for San Francisco (12): Alex Smith for Troy Smith at quarterback, Joe Staley for Barry Sims at left tackle, Adam Snyder for Chilo Rachal at right guard, Bruce Miller for Moran Norris at fullback, Isaac Sopoaga for Aubrayo Franklin at nose tackle, Ray McDonald for Sopoaga at defensive end, Ahmad Brooks for Manny Lawson at outside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman for Takeo Spikes at inside linebacker, Carlos Rogers for Nate Clements at cornerback, Tarell Brown for Shawntae Spencer at cornerback, Donte Whitner for Reggie Smith at strong safety.

Seahawks at Giants

Score last season: Giants 41, Seahawks 7

Key play: With Seattle already down 14-0 in the first quarter, the Giants returned Leon Washington's fumbled kickoff return to the Seattle 4, setting up Ahmad Bradshaw's touchdown run on the next play.

Biggest change: Tarvaris Jackson is the starting quarterback for Seattle. Charlie Whitehurst was a fill-in starter for Matt Hasselbeck when the teams played last season.

Storyline: The Seahawks' so-far-unproductive ground game faces a Giants run defense that has struggled. Seattle's young line improved in pass protection last week. Can it take a step forward in run blocking this week?

Lineup changes for Seattle (16): Sidney Rice for Deon Butler at receiver, Jackson for Whitehurst at quarterback, Russell Okung for Chester Pitts at left tackle, Paul McQuistan for Mike Gibson at left guard, Max Unger for Chris Spencer at center, John Moffitt for Stacy Andrews at right guard, James Carpenter for Sean Locklear at right tackle, Zach Miller for John Carlson at tight end, Brandon Mebane for Junior Siavii at defensive tackle, Alan Branch for Craig Terrill at defensive tackle, Red Bryant for Kentwan Balmer at defensive end, K.J. Wright for Aaron Curry at linebacker, David Hawthorne for Lofa Tatupu at linebacker, Leroy Hill for Hawthorne at linebacker, Brandon Browner for Kelly Jennings at right cornerback, Kam Chancellor or Atari Bigby for Lawyer Milloy, depending on Chancellor's availability.

Week 3 shines light on NFC West moves

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
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A few recent NFC West moves are coming into focus with an assist from NFC schedule makers. A quick run through some of them:
  • Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati: The Seattle Seahawks traded Jennings to the Bengals in part because they wanted to get bigger at cornerback. They were tired of seeing Jennings struggle more than a bigger corner might against Larry Fitzgerald and other big receivers. With Jennings gone, 6-foot-4 corner Brandon Browner will get his first look at Fitzgerald in Week 3. Jennings, meanwhile, will not have to worry about facing the San Francisco 49ers' biggest receiver, Braylon Edwards, this weekend. Edwards will miss the 49ers-Bengals game and possibly others after undergoing knee surgery, coach Jim Harbaugh announced. Jennings missed the opener with a hamstring injury and did not factor statistically in Week 2.
  • Kevin Kolb to Arizona: Seattle seriously considered acquiring Kolb from Philadelphia two years ago, and less seriously this offseason. The Cardinals traded starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft choice to the Eagles for Kolb. They also made Kolb very wealthy. Kolb leads the Cardinals into Seattle in Week 3 for a game that will offer some evidence as to which team took the right approach. Quarterback problems doomed Arizona to an 0-2 record against Seattle last season.
  • Various 49ers to Cincinnati: Manny Lawson, Nate Clements and Taylor Mays landed in Cincinnati after leaving the 49ers. Lawson and Clements are starting. A knee injury has prevented Mays from playing so far this season. The 49ers' pass defense struggled with Clements on the team last season. It struggled even more with the game on the line against Dallas in Week 2. Keeping Clements wasn't a realistic option for the 49ers given contractual dynamics. Clements won't have to face Edwards, and it's unclear whether fellow 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree will play after aggravating a foot injury. Lawson's sack totals were an item of interest annually when he was with the 49ers, but he's no longer playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
  • Justin Bannan to St. Louis: Bannan spent last season with Denver, but he was with Baltimore for the previous four seasons. The Rams have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the league through two games, a surprise given the team's emphasis on improving that area through various personnel moves. Bannan's addition was one of those moves. One of the NFL's better runners, Ray Rice, is coming to St. Louis in Week 3.
  • Alan Branch to Seattle: Thanks to pendulum80 for noticing I'd left this one off initially. Branch has so far been a welcome addition to the Seahawks' run defense as a starting tackle. He says he's a better fit for the Seahawks' scheme and it's tough to argue at this point, although consistency will be the key for Branch. He played well at times for Arizona as well. Can he play well for Seattle all season? I'm thinking he'll be ready to go Sunday.
  • Mark LeGree to Arizona: This one's a non-factor in terms of game-day impact, but in case you had not heard, the Seahawks' 2011 fifth-round pick did sign with the Cardinals' practice squad.

Of all these moves, the one involving Kolb carries the most interesting ramifications.

Around the NFC West: Towering CB

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
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Greg Toler, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings were among the starting cornerbacks for NFC West teams in Week 17 last season.

Only Toler remains with his team from that group, and he's on injured reserve. Another Week 17 starter at corner, Shawntae Spencer, has missed extensive time to injury.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times checks in with one of the NFC West cornerback replacements, and an improbable one at that: 6-foot-4 CFL alum Brandon Browner, the favorite to start opposite Marcus Trufant when the Seattle Seahawks visit the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Kelley: "Watch him in practice or preseason this summer and you had to wonder how so many teams could have been so wrong about him. In a league where wide receivers are getting taller, Browner, at 6 feet 4, 225 pounds, seems like a natural. But in the past five years he had auditioned for Miami, Philadelphia, Minnesota and the Seahawks and never gotten a call back."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides an interview transcript from his meeting with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Carroll on why he named Tarvaris Jackson the starting quarterback outright: "Our commitment to Tarvaris is really a commitment to the execution of a really good plan, and to put a team together in very short order. And because of the coaching shifts there are things that made that come to the surface. … I think it’s the best competitive thing we can do for our club to make him the quarterback right now, and not worry about an open competition and dividing reps and stuff. There’s just no time. … It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the team or our fans -- everybody that’s following us. … And I love what Tarvaris can do. I think he’s a fantastic player. I’m just hoping that we can support him properly and play good around him so he can get rolling for us, and that hasn’t quite happened yet."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic profiles new Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb. Guard Rex Hadnot played with Kolb in college and had this to say: "I couldn't tell you what it is about him. His parents have instilled something in him for him to be able to come into a situation, adapt and achieve great success. When I heard about the acquisition, I was excited."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are expected to announce Chester Taylor's addition Monday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says veteran guard Hank Fraley is out after the Rams reached a contract agreement with Tony Wragge. Thomas: "Fraley, 33, was due to make $1 million in base salary this season. He appeared in seven games last season, mainly on special teams."

Also from Thomas: NFL teams made waiver claims on Rams castoffs, an indication the talent level is improving in St. Louis. The team hoped to sign quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to its practice squad, but former Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur knew about Lewis and claimed him for the Browns. Rams general manager Billy Devaney: "We were hoping he wasn't claimed, but we fully understood that he played good enough in the preseason where I know he opened some people's eyes. And Pat's certainly familiar with him in Cleveland."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the NFL has not decided whether to suspend 49ers receiver Braylon Edwards, who pleaded guilty to DUI.

Also from Maiocco: It's looking like the 49ers will sign inside linebacker Tavares Gooden, released by the Ravens. Gooden was a third-round choice in 2008. Would his coach with the Ravens, John Harbaugh, provide a scouting report to his brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh?

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee highlights stark differences between current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and former coach Mike Singletary. Singletary was all about the big picture. Harbaugh is all about the little things. The team hasn't even used the giant hill Singletary had built for conditioning drills. Noted: Head coaches set the tone, obviously, but details surely mattered to Singletary as well. He just didn't want to be the one in charge of them. There's a different feel and standard when the head coach is involved at the most detailed level.

Also from Barrows: updates the 49ers' practice squad signings.
Well, this will stir up some dust.

Scouts Inc.'s 2011 season projections, available to Insider subscribers, call for the St. Louis Rams to win the NFC West with a 9-7 record.

I'll run through their projections, revisit mine and single out two aspects of the Scouts Inc. analysis, one I like ("Amen, Scouts Inc.") and one I think needs clarification (Picking nits).

St. Louis Rams

Scouts Inc. projection: 9-7

My post-camp win range: 8

Amen, Scouts Inc.: They recognize the Rams will try to be more aggressive with their downfield throws even though the team's wide receivers aren't burners overall.

Picking nits: The outside linebackers did give up too many plays last season, but the team will have two new starters in those positions for 2011.

Seattle Seahawks

Scouts Inc. projection: 7-9

My post-camp win range: 5-7

Amen, Scouts Inc.: I agree that we'll see Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback before long unless the Seahawks' new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, sees something in Tarvaris Jackson that others do not see. There's also a good chance for a quarterback change by injury unless Seattle tightens up its pass protection considerably.

Picking nits: How the pass defense performed last season might not mean much for 2011. The team traded away Kelly Jennings, lost Jordan Babineaux and did not re-sign Lawyer Milloy. Walter Thurmond looks completely different athletically in his second season back from knee surgery. The secondary is younger and bigger overall.

Arizona Cardinals

Scouts Inc. projection: 7-9

My post-camp win range: 7-8

Amen, Scouts Inc.: I've focused more on questions regarding the Cardinals' pass-rush, but Scouts Inc. raises legitimate concerns about the run defense. The team's aging outside linebackers were "too slow to execute as playmakers" last season. Now, they're a year older. The team clearly needs some of its younger players to emerge.

Picking nits: While Patrick Peterson's skills should eventually help the Cardinals play more aggressively, the first-round draft choice has so far eased into the role. He has not yet been named a starter.

San Francisco 49ers

Scouts Inc. projection: 6-10

My post-camp win range: 6-7

Amen, Scouts Inc.: The run defense should indeed remain strong even though the 49ers changed some of their personnel up the middle. I went to 49ers camp questioning the defensive changes and came away with a better understanding of what the team was thinking.

Picking nits: There weren't any nits to be found here, at least from my perspective. I had not considered the Scouts Inc. observation regarding the 49ers' rush offense, which read, "We'll see a run-first power attack with a FB and a lot of two-TE sets. Although the new coach wants his backs to be one-cut guys to set up play-action, Gore tends to be more of a patient runner."

Quick look at Seahawks' 80-man roster

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
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The Seattle Seahawks reached the 80-man roster limit in effect Tuesday.

They released defensive tackle Jay Alford and safety Ricky Thenarse after making moves Monday. Acquiring defensive lineman Clifton McDonald from Cincinnati in the Kelly Jennings trade changed the dynamics at defensive tackle.

Veteran fullback Mike Karney plans to visit with the team. Signing Karney would necessitate a move elsewhere on the roster.

The chart compares current positional counts to those from Week 1 of the 2010 season.

The St. Louis Rams have also made moves to comply. A quick look at their positional counts in a moment.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Michael Crabtree's return to the practice field Monday might have violated NFL rules regarding players on the physically unable to perform list. Maiocco: "Crabtree, whom the 49ers have yet to remove from the physically-unable-to-perform list, caught more than 20 passes during warmups from quarterbacks Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Josh McCown and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Crabtree even caught a pass from coach Jim Harbaugh before general manager Trent Baalke walked onto the practice field, apparently, to inform Harbaugh that Crabtree was not allowed to physically participate in any aspect of practice until he's removed from the PUP list. Crabtree was not in uniform. He wore a red sweatshirt, gray shorts and a backward baseball cap." Harbaugh has created an adversarial relationship with reporters by banning them from the bulk of practices and withholding even the most basic injury-related information. When I visited camp, Harbaugh bristled when asked about injuries and even threatened to curtail access further if the questioning continued. In short, the 49ers have invited harsher scrutiny. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello: "We are looking into it. We appreciate Trent Baalke contacting our office to report what happened. Our understanding is that it occurred during warm-ups and that Michael Crabtree did not participate in practice."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee indicates Crabtree did catch passes during the practice session. Barrows: "Wearing shorts, a red sweatshirt, black cleats and a baseball cap, Crabtree spent about 10 minutes during the warm-up period catching passes from Alex Smith. When practice began, he headed to a middle field with the four quarterbacks and Harbaugh. He lined up wide of the group and took a few quick steps like a receiver would before catching screen passes from each of the quarterbacks. He caught passes from both sides of the formation, but never ran more than five yards. After about five minutes, general manager Trent Baalke walked over to Harbaugh, presumably to tell the coach that Crabtree was not allowed to take part in practice. Crabtree then moved to the team's artificial-surface field where he began his usual rehabilitation work."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers deserve none of the breaks a rebuilding team would get when fans evaluate the 2011 season.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Frank Gore does not expect a quick resolution to his contract situation.

Also from Inman: The 49ers admitted to an "oversight" regarding Crabtree.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers received a 2013 seventh-round choice in return for safety Taylor Mays after making it clear Mays was not in their plans.

More from Maiocco: Left tackle Joe Staley makes no excuses for the 49ers' struggles on the offensive line.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says fifth-round draft choice Mark LeGree faces stiff competition for a roster spot despite entering camp amid high expectations from the team. Farnsworth: "He was very productive in college and drafted with the thought that he could play free safety in the nickel and dime packages, allowing Earl Thomas to step up and cover a slot receiver. But Josh Pinkard and even free agent Jeron Johnson have been better in that role during training camp and the preseason. LeGree has the potential to develop into the player the coaches expect him to be. He’s just not there yet."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has this to say about the Seahawks trading cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati: "The trade of Jennings reflects the fact Seattle is so pleased with the performance of Brandon Browner and the development of rookies Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell that the Seahawks didn't foresee a role for Jennings in the secondary this season."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic updates Greg Toler's injury situation with the Cardinals. Somers: "Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn't say who will move up the depth chart to take over for Toler, although many assume it will be first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson, who has been brought along slowly. Peterson said he and veteran Richard Marshall split time running with the first-team defense during Monday's practice, but he wasn't ready to declare the starting job is his."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says practicing in severe heat Monday took a toll on the Cardinals. The Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers do not have indoor practice facilities. The Cardinals in particular need one. Whisenhunt has affected significant change since arriving as head coach in 2007. Getting an indoor facility built should be a top priority. Larry Fitzgerald: "The first thing to go when you are dehydrated is memory, you forget your routes, things like that, so honestly, it does condition you to push through. You have to find a way to persevere."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates rookie Lance Kendricks' progress with the Rams. Coats: "After three preseason games, Kendricks is the Rams' leading receiver, with eight catches for 82 yards. He's scored two touchdowns, also a team high. ... Kendricks played basketball his freshman and sophomore years at King, and twice placed in the state track meet in the triple jump. He chose Wisconsin over Louisiana State and Arkansas despite the Badgers' run-first approach on offense. At the time, Kendricks was a wide receiver, and he'd observed the success that St. Louisan Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr were having at wideout for Wisconsin."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com passes along roster-related updates for the Rams. Wagoner: "On Monday, the Rams made a few more moves to get closer to the final 80. Heading the list is veteran LB Na’il Diggs. Diggs signed with the Rams before last season and was solid at strong side linebacker before a pectoral injury ended his season about a month early. But the team signed Brady Poppinga in the offseason and he appears to have won the job. DB John Dempsey and DL Kenneth Charles were also let go."
Playing connect-the-dots with prominent Seattle draft choices predating the Seahawks' current leadership, which arrived in 2010:
  • 2003 draft: First-round pick Marcus Trufant accepts a pay reduction. Fourth-rounder Seneca Wallace, the only other player remaining with Seattle from this class when Pete Carroll took over as head coach, is traded.
  • 2004 draft: Third-round pick Sean Locklear, the only remaining player from this draft class, has his contract truncated. The team does not re-sign him.
  • 2005 draft: First-round pick Chris Spencer is not re-signed. Second-rounder Lofa Tatupu is released after refusing a pay reduction. Third-rounder Leroy Hill takes a pay reduction, then re-signs somewhat improbably.
  • 2006 draft: First-rounder Kelly Jennings is traded. Second-rounder Darryl Tapp is traded. Fourth-rounder Rob Sims, the third player Seattle selected in the 2006 draft, is traded.
  • 2007 draft: The team had no first-round pick. Second-rounder Josh Wilson is traded. Deion Branch, the player Seattle received in return for that 2007 first-round pick, is traded.
  • 2008 draft: First-rounder Lawrence Jackson is traded. Second-rounder John Carlson is imperiled when the team signs tight end Zach Miller in free agency. Carlson is entering the final year of his contract.
  • 2009 draft: First-rounder Aaron Curry accepts a new contract making him easier to trade or release in the future.

Curry and Carlson are the two remaining early draft choices to watch. Both remain younger players with potential, but their futures in Seattle appear tenuous.

Some of these draft choices would have fared better in Seattle if the team had performed well enough to avoid sweeping changes in the organization. Likewise, those sweeping changes might not have been necessary if some of these draft choices had come closer to meeting expectations.

What stands out most to me: Mike Teel, David Greene, Wallace, Jeff Kelly and Josh Booty are the only quarterbacks the Seahawks have drafted since 2001.

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